Country Living with Francis Farragher
Having been out and about the weekend before last including a trip to one of those real jewels along our Galway coastline – the Aran Islands – I picked up the usual farmer’s tan . . . well in fact it was more of a burning than a yellowing with no ‘protection’ at hand.
The sight of a beetroot red head confronting me in the mirror on a Sunday morning, (with alcohol not the culprit) was not a pretty sight, and the sun must be respected, but here in Ireland we get so accustomed to our duller days that we don’t take precautions with that burning ball in the sky.
We’ve done okay with sunshine so far this Spring and this added to the ever lengthening days, does help greatly to life the spirits and cast aside the doom and gloom of the winter period.
All a far cry from this time last year, when farmers desperately scrambled to buy a few bales of hay or silage, with not a pick of fresh growth to be found anywhere.
It is a medically researched and proven fact that daylight, and more particularly sunshine, do add greatly to our sense of well being, with the sun’s rays one of the great natural sources of vitamin D.
According to bodies like the Mayo Clinic, vitamin D3 helps the body to absorb calcium that in turn offers protection against such conditions as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.
Sunlight is also believed to be an aid in maintaining the levels of serotonin in our brains, the chemical that we need to keep us in a fairly decent mood or humour and to prevent us from slipping into any cycle of depression.
Seasonal Affected Disorder or SAD, is now taken very seriously by most GPs and psychiatrists, and tending to strike in late autumn and early winter as the days get shorter and our exposure to sunshine diminishes.
As well as serotonin, the change in the seasons from lighter, brighter days to heavier and darker ones, can also have an adverse impact on our levels of melatonin, the natural hormone produced in the body that helps us to sleep and rest quite naturally.
So during the summer – if ‘we’re good’ – and get out in the open air whether it be walking, cycling, jogging or just working outdoors, there is a huge therapeutic spin-off, that’s now being medically defined and proven.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops
“I hated school so much I thought if I could be a teacher, I could make it a bit better,” says novelist and poet Elaine Feeney about her day-job as an English and History teacher at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam.
The Athenry woman certainly has made it livelier and more relevant. Her students who were studying Hamlet for this year’s Leaving Cert departed from the text to give the troubled prince psychotherapy sessions, with different boys taking on the roles of Hamlet and the therapist as they explored the plot. Elaine laughs as she recalls how they got totally caught up in it. There’s always an entry point to good writing, she says, adding that she loves Shakespeare – in part because of the soap opera element to his drama.
“You can compare it to the latest episode of EastEnders”.
The Handmaid’s Tale by contemporary Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is also on the curriculum. Her novel might seem more relevant to the boys, especially given its global success since being adapted for television. When Elaine learned that Atwood would be visiting Galway in early March this year for a Galway 2020 event, she asked the organisers if it would be possible for the class to meet her and discuss her work. That’s what happened and 25 young men in their school blazers spent three hours discussing the novel with Atwood.
Elaine lectures in Creative Writing at NUIG and has been involved in the university’s project archiving the stories of the survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home. So, watching her students engage with a woman whose books deal with the misuse of power and oppression of women was a great moment.
It’s an example of how far she’ll go to give the students the best preparation for exams and for life. Elaine has a great relationship with them, something she’ll miss next year as she takes a career break to promote her own novel, As You Were, published by UK company Harvill Secker.
Read the full interview with Elaine Feeney in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Live album looks after those who make it real
Anyone who has seen Mick Flannery play live will know that the Corkman doesn’t embrace the spotlight with both arms. There is a sincerity to what he does – his reluctance to operate as any sort of frontman is only outweighed by passion for his craft.
His shows are intimate and they’re backed up by a studio-quality sound and a genuine engagement between artist and audience. It is what happens when someone who doesn’t like talking about themselves ends up pouring their heart out on stage.
It is fitting, then, that Mick’s new album revolves around the people around him. All of the proceeds for Alive – Cork Opera House 2019, the singer-songwriter’s first live LP, will be shared among members of his band and crew who have lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a major gesture from a modest talent and Mick is quick to point out that the album reflects just how much he owes to those that share his stage.
“I’m glad that it’s there as a tribute to them,” he says of the album. “I think Alan Comerford had a great gig that night on electric guitar with the solos that he played. Matthew Berrill was on the brass and he did some lovely stuff.
“There’s a few of the lads in the band who have music as their sole income. It’s not always easy to do that. It’s constantly booking gigs in bars around the place and that but it’s what they do and it’s what they have a passion for. They’ve worked hard to do what they love for a living and now these circumstances have taken that away.
“I have a kind of area to pivot – I can start writing songs and preparing albums whereas for the crew, without the live gigs their skillset is not being used at all… Lighting engineers and sound engineers, riggers, people that have built up PA companies over the years and small venues as well.”
For full interview, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Arts Festival is still giving it socks!
“This is not a July festival as people know it, moved forward. It’s a different creature” says Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival Paul Fahy about the organisation’s ‘Autumn Edition’ which is being held in reality and virtually in September and October following the cancellation of the July 2020 Festival due to Covid-19.
The aim is to bring live audiences into performances in a safe way, “to re-ignite that spark between live art and audience”, while also using digital platforms to reach those who might not be able to attend live events due to Covid-19.
He’s understandably excited about Mirror Pavilion, a major installation by artist John Gerrard commissioned by the Festival for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.
It will launch in Galway City’s Claddagh Quay on September 3, and will also be in Derrigimlagh Bog in North Connemara for October.
Gerrard is known for spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in California’s Coachella Desert and this work will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever in Ireland.
It will consist of three walls and a roof made of reflective glass while the fourth wall is an LED screen.
Two new artworks will be presented in the Pavilion; Corn Work at Claddagh Quay and Leaf Work at Derrigimlagh.
These connect with their specific setting, with Corn Work reflecting the power of the River Corrib and the many mills and industries it powered in bygone days.
Leaf Work, in the vast spaces of Derrigimlagh is a lament for the environmental damage that’s been caused to the world in the past century.
See full line-up and story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.